Wednesday evening, about six o’clock, I went to Waitrose. There was a mother there with a little boy, he was having an absolute loop-out. It brought back lots of memories. The little boy was about five or six and at some point had managed to become detached from his coat. He was now refusing, absolutely, to have anything to do with it. Mum was tired, busy and embarrassed that everyone could hear him scream and shout. It was cold outside, she needed him to put on the coat, he was refusing. It was loud and emotional. I felt so sorry for her, I have been in her place too many times.
You could see she was tired, at that, “I’m going to cry myself in a minute, I don’t know what to do” stage. The threats were escalating (no ice-cream ever again) and you could see she was itching to smack his legs but too worried to do it in public in case everyone disapproved. I wanted to say something to her. I wanted to tell her that she wasn’t the world’s worst mother, that all mothers have been there, that eventually he won’t have tantrums anymore and she will actually wish he was small again. But I didn’t. Partly because there was no pause in the boy’s screaming and her telling him to put on his coat, partly because she looked so emotionally fragile, so completely worn down, that I thought she might misunderstand or burst into tears.
The thing is, if I am honest, I still don’t know what you are meant to do in those situations. Children are completely unreasonable and if they refuse, absolutely, to do something, there is not much a mother can do. My children did eventually stop having those very public screaming rows, but I think I just got better at avoiding them, seeing what was likely to happen before we got to that stage, not getting into situations that would explode. I don’t think I ever learnt what to do when they did happen.
I do remember a particularly bad session with one child where I believe I asked husband to stop the car so I could leave him by the side of the road. I think he was refusing to wear a seatbelt or something. We were in California, on holiday. Son was screaming, daughter started to cry because I was going to abandon her brother, other son burst into tears because daughter was crying, our friends (who did not have children at the time) were terribly worried and wondered if they should intervene. It was not a wonderful time. But it passed. No one was abandoned by the road. Son now always wears seatbelt. (Friends now have children of their own and understand completely.) I don’t miss everything about those days.
This Tuesday was a very productive day for me. I finished the first draft of Joanna. I am now, according to Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’, supposed to forget about it for three months, then re-read it and make any changes and additions that seem appropriate after reading it with ‘fresh eyes’. I, of course, am not sure that I am patient enough for that and am just dying to send it out to agents.
I also did some awful animal jobs. Regular stuff, like feeding them and cleaning them out and collecting the eggs, just sort of happens every day without me really thinking about it. The other stuff, like worming them all and using the flea stuff, is a pain and I tend to put it off. But not Tuesday, Tuesday I got it all done.
I weighed the outside cats (SO much fun on my kitchen scales, you can imagine) and bought them all worm tablets and flea stuff. Then I forced the pills into their mouths (which they hate.) Five cats were successfully wormed, Mandy refused to swallow and after an absolute age, when I was sure it would have dissolved, she spat it out. Annoying.
I then squirted them with the flea/worm combo stuff. They hate that too. It has to go on their skin, so it probably feels cold. After they were done they ran away and refused to come near me for the rest of the day.
The ducks are thinking about laying. They have started making round dips in the hay in the aviary.
The chickens are horrible. They all pick on one chicken and peck at it. It tends to change, they take turns on who is picked on, so they do get some respite but there is always one poor scraggy looking bird who lays smaller eggs because she’s unhappy.
The cockerels have had a few stand-offs this week – perhaps because it’s Spring. Kia manages to sort it out (she bounces on them!) I’m hoping it doesn’t escalate or one will have to go.
The outside cats have allocated themselves beds. There is a heated igloo, which the two mothers have squashed flat and now sleep on together. There is another heated bed, big enough for three, where Mandy sleeps. Midge sleeps on top, where he can see everyone.
When everything is calm, I like my life. Hope your week has been good.
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You can read my sister’s letters at : http://ruthdalyauthor.blogspot.co.uk